After spending 54 years from birth to 2008 living in Iowa I was presented with an opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. My blog is a diary of the adventure to get to Alaska, day to day life in Alaska, as well as facts for loved ones left behind in the Lower 48. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Salcha Homeowner Killls Three Marauding Grizzlies

Here's a couple of pictures and an article from today's newspaper - Salcha is about 45 miles from Fairbanks. Be sure to click on the photos for a larger view.

FAIRBANKS — A family of three grizzly bears that broke into a garage and raided a freezer at a home in Salcha earlier this week was shot and killed Thursday night by the homeowner after they evidently returned for another meal and the sow charged the man.

“They chased me into my house,” Brandon Mattzela said by phone Friday morning. “That was beyond my scope of live and let live.”

Unbeknownst to Mattzela, the bears — a sow with two yearling cubs — were at his house when he returned home from a trip to town at about 9 p.m. The two cubs were in the garage, and the sow was in a feed shed on Mattzela’s property.

A motion light on the garage was off when he arrived home, leading Mattzela to believe the cubs had been in the garage for a while, and were possibly even sleeping while the sow rummaged through his feed shed.

“I think what happened is I got between her and the cubs, and I didn’t realize it,” he said.
Mattzela was in the back of his Ford Ranger pickup, which he had backed up to his porch to unload a fuel tank, when he heard the sow coming toward him.

“I heard the crunching of the snow, and she was woofing,” said Mattzela, a 29-year-old concrete cutter.

If it hadn’t been for the F-150 parked in the yard between Mattzela and the bear, he might not have made into the house, he said.

“She hit the truck, and I could see the truck move,” Mattzela said. “I heard this thump, and then she came screaming around it.

“By the time I had my hand on the door, she was 10 feet away,” he said.

Once he was inside, the sow started pacing back and forth in front of the porch, woofing and growling, Mattzela said.

“She was staring at the front door, pacing back and forth, making a lot of noise,” Mattzela said. “She came up to the porch a couple times and put her paws on it and pushed on it.”
At that point, Mattzela grabbed a .300 Winchester magnum rifle, went upstairs and shot the sow through his bedroom window.

The full moon and a light amplifier on his scope allowed him to get a good shot, he said. After he shot the sow, the two cubs ran to their dead mother and he shot them, too.

“I didn’t like shooting the cubs,” Mattzela said. “I feel bad about it, but it had to be done.”
Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms wasn’t surprised when Mattzela called her Friday to report the shootings.

She called it an “unfortunate situation” but one that was justified and probably inevitable, given the bears’ increasingly bold behavior.

“It’s gone beyond getting into buildings and freezers,” she said. “He was charged by the sow, and the (cubs) were large enough to present a danger.

“It’s clearly a defense of life and property shooting,” Harms said after talking to Mattzela.
There was no doubt in Mattzela’s mind that he was defending himself.

“You can’t be in your own home and think something is going to break down the door and eat you,” said Mattzela, who measured the sow at about 6 feet. “(The sow) was overly aggressive. I’ve been toe to toe with bears before, and that one scared the crap out of me. My heart was in my throat for about two hours after that.”

Not only were the cubs too young to survive on their own, Harms said the young bears had been taught by their mother how to forage for food around homes, which almost always leads to problems.

“These guys learned some very bad habits,” Harms said of all three bears. “None of our research has shown you can untrain a bear once they’ve learned these kinds of habits.”

The bears had been raising a ruckus in the rural neighborhood 35 miles south of Fairbanks for more than two weeks. State wildlife biologists with the Department of Fish and Game set a trap for the bears last week after the bears pounded on the door of another home about 4 miles up the road from where Mattzela lives.

The bears triggered the trap twice without getting caught.

Mattzela first noticed their tracks at his house Tuesday. On Wednesday, they returned to break into his garage and rip the top off a chest freezer, helping themselves to a buffet of frozen salmon, moose and caribou.

Mattzela caught the bears in the act when he let his dog out at 5 a.m.

The dog, a basset hound named Pike, ran out and confronted the bears, prompting the sow to swat at him. Mattzela shot at the bears with a .44-caliber handgun, but said he didn’t think he hit them because he was worried about shooting his dog, which escaped unscathed.

The bears broke down the door to the garage that Mattzela had rebuilt after they got into his garage Wednesday, causing what he estimated is about $1,000 in damage.

“They went straight through the rebuilt door,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with bears all my life, and I thought I had it barred up pretty good.”

The hides of the bears will be salvaged and used for educational purposes or sold at the Department of Fish and Game’s annual spring hide, horn and antler auction for animals killed in defense of life and property or killed illegally, Harms said.

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